I was in elementary school, probably 4th grade or so. I had to run an errand, go to the bathroom, or something that required going downstairs. On my way back up, I passed Richard.

Richard, as you might have guessed, is retarded. He was intelligent and nice, though I didn't know him really well. A lot of times in elementary school, if you go somewhere, you need to have a buddy. Richard's buddy was a bit ahead of him further up the stairs. He was also growing impatient as Richard was slowly climbing the stairs.

"Hurry up, Richard! Come on!"

I didn't like what he said, or his tone. So I decided to stick up for Richard. (I know what it's like to be the constant target of verbal abuse.)

"Hey! Richard's coming. He's retarded. Give him a break."

We went our separate ways, back to our respective classes.

A bit later, I was called into Richard's class by his teacher. It seems our little dialog was reported to the teacher, and she was upset. I figured it was because I told the kid off.

"Why did you call Richard retarded?"


I wasn't sure how to answer. Of course, being in 4th grade, confronted with authority, and baffled at the situation, my nerves were acting up.

I was confused. I mean, he is retarded. That's what the teachers explained to us. What would they have me say instead? I wasn't insulting him, I was sticking up for him. Why am I in trouble for this? Trying to explain this to the teacher was pointless, however, and I was sent back to my class, believed to be some kind of hater-of-retarded kids. And of course, the teacher didn't bring me outside the classroom to ask about the incident; she did it in front of her class. There were kids in there who probably DID make fun of Richard, so I was probably lumped in with the rest of them.

If anything, I was simply being straightforward. This was a long time before political correctness was popular, too. In this particular situation, I was absolutely positive I was doing the right thing. But no. Punished for being honest because they're uncomfortable with the truth and how it's expressed.

People confuse me.